La Palma airport forced to close as volcano continues to erupt on island

·3 min read

Huge bursts of lava were seen shooting into the air on the Spanish island of La Palma on Friday as new vents opened in the Cumbre Vieja volcano. The intense lava flows that started last Sunday have forced thousands to evacuate, and on Saturday, an accumulation of ash forced the small island's airport to close.

Secuencia de vídeo infrarrojo de la actividad actual y las coladas de lava procedentes de las dos nuevas bocas eruptivas / Infrared vídeo of the current activity and the lava flows coming from the two brand new eruptive vents pic.twitter.com/YBsOJtckOW

— INVOLCAN (@involcan) September 24, 2021

Photos posted by the Volcanological Institute of the Canary Islands on Saturday show thick, dark smoke plummeting out of the volcano. The institute, known as INVOLCAN, said that an emission vent had opened west of the initial one. However, the amplitude of the volcanic tremor had "decreased notably" as of Saturday night local time, the institute said.

Se ha abierto un nuevo foco de emisión más al oeste del foco principal / A new emission vent has opened at the west of the principal one pic.twitter.com/TnQHzvHI1T

— INVOLCAN (@involcan) September 25, 2021

The latest eruptions forced the La Palma airport to close early Saturday morning due to an accumulation of ash, Spanish airport operator Aena tweeted. By 12:30 p.m. ET, the operator tweeted that workers were in the process of removing ash from the runways.

As the volcano continues to erupt, those who live on the island are susceptible to earthquakes, lava flows, toxic gases, volcanic ash and acid rain. Of major concern to people on the island is the health effects and damage caused by the volcano.

A kid bicycle is buried in volcanic ash as Mount Cumbre Vieja continues to erupt on the Canary island of La Palma in El Paso on September 24, 2021. / Credit: Andres Gutierrez/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images
A kid bicycle is buried in volcanic ash as Mount Cumbre Vieja continues to erupt on the Canary island of La Palma in El Paso on September 24, 2021. / Credit: Andres Gutierrez/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

Officials have asked residents to avoid outdoor activities as the volcano erupts. Children, pregnant people, the elderly and those who have lung or heart ailments are at greatest risk of experiencing side effects from the eruptions and are urged to practice extreme caution, officials tweeted. Those exposed to volcanic ash have been told to wear face masks and protective glasses and make sure their skin is completely covered.

Since Cumbre Vieja started erupting last Sunday, an estimated 6,000 people have been evacuated from the island, the government of the Canary Islands said in a statement on Friday. Roughly 160 people in the nearby areas of Tajuya, Tacande de Abajo and Tacande de Arriba, located roughly 10 miles from the volcano, also evacuated.

The damage caused by the eruption could last up to 84 days, researchers from the Volcanology Institute said on Wednesday.

The lava that has flowed from the volcano so far has reached nearly 20 feet high and has destroyed hundreds of buildings, including many homes. Photos of the damage show several inches of rock, lava and ash covering yards and bicycles and piling up around homes.

In one area, one house seemed to survive the lava flow as others around it were completely enveloped by the lava. Owned by an elderly Danish couple that have been gone since the start of the coronavirus pandemic, the house is surrounded by the dark, rocky remnants of the volcano's lava.

For almost a week, rivers of lava have been flowing from a volcano on the Spanish island of La Palma. Hundreds of houses were destroyed, but one miraculously survived. pic.twitter.com/aB0WDK1aPX

— CBS Mornings (@CBSMornings) September 25, 2021

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